Mickey Rooney, 1920-2014

One of the last big stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood has died:

Mickey Rooney, a celebrated child actor who embodied the All-American boy in the “Andy Hardy” films of the 1930s and ’40s and became one of the era’s top box-office draws, has died. He was 93.

Rooney, whose roller-coaster show-business career was marked by an often-turbulent personal life, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Police Commander Andrew Smith and the Los Angeles County coroner’s office confirmed his death.

Rooney’s daughter-in-law Charlene Rooney said the actor died of natural causes Sunday afternoon at the home he shared with her and her husband, Mark Rooney.

I can only think of a few remaining top box office stars from that period. Olivia de Havilland and Luise Rainer come to mind and, remarkably, they’re both older than The Mick.

Despite the Irish stage name he wasn’t an Irishman. He was a Scot—his dad was Scottish-born vaudevillean Joe Yule. According to my mom, who appeared in vaudeville at just about the same time as Mickey Rooney did, as a child actor Rooney started out doing impressions of his dad. I presume she was passing along her dad’s assessment.

I was never much of a fan of the Andy Hardy pictures or his musicals with Judy Garland. His performances were just too manic. He began to come into his own with National Velvet but by that time he was starting to put his ingenue roles behind him. Like many child performers his transition into adult roles was difficult.

IMO it wasn’t until his old age that his acting really shone in performances like that in Bill.

Like the trooper he was he worked right through to the end. There’s no better way for an old vaudevillean to go. We still have his performances from his heyday in the glow of our televisions in glorious black and white. Check out his performances as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in Captain’s Courageous, and The Human Comedy. They’re some of his best.

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